Minister says EFF leader is responsible for chaos at college.
HIGHER Education and Training Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize has blamed EFF leader Julius Malema for the chaos and stampeded that took place at a TVET college in Limpopo last week, leaving some students injured.
Malema has repeatedly called on students – including those who passed matric years ago – to walk-into the universities of their choice and register in the wake of the announcement regardless of whether they had applied or not. He said he had already done so at Wits in a bid to register for his Master’s Degree.
Without mentioning Malema by name, Mkhize told thousands of students during her visit to the Capricorn TVET College on Tuesday that politicians who manipulated President Jacob Zuma’s fee-free tertiary education announcement for political gain were partly responsible for what transpired at the college in Polokwane.
The stampeded forced the college to shut its doors and relocate the application and registration process to the nearby Peter Mokaba Stadium.
In a media briefing held at the Capricorn TVET College’s Head office, Mkhize said: “There was a misinterpretation of President Jacob Zuma’s Free Education announcement. Because as the national department of Higher Education and Training we have to monitor the opening of TVET colleges and Universities following the government’s response to the Judge’s Commission Report.”
Mkhize said that the department saw it fit to consider those who were still under the National Student Financial Aid Scheme as beneficiaries of Free Higher Education as they met the requirements.
“When we went through certain rigorous processes during a period of time, we made choices of what we could do immediately which was to say that lets focus on those who are NSFAS beneficiaries,” she added.
“But of cause we have to monitor the exclusions and misinterpretations of what was said. Because there has been a political move that emanated from the announcement. So we are here to advise with the management of Colleges that it is important to emphasize what is the context of the announcement.
She said that they had noticed a large number of leniencies over TVET College applications system as prospective students did not adhere to deadlines. Mkhize said that they have considered adopting the Central Application System (CAPS) in order to avoid future tragedies.
“Applicants first need to be accepted by an institution before they can walk in. It does not start by saying that I have money and then I am going to walk in. A person must first meet the criteria in order to be admitted because that it is when they will be able to apply for funding. When we made observations amongst ourselves we discovered that we have been a little bit too relaxed in monitoring the application processes at TVET Colleges to an extent that applicants would be relaxed too and not adhere to deadlines,” said Mkhize.
The department also said that they have had engagements with several TVET colleges within the province in order to check whether there was still space available. Principal of Lephalale TVET College Lekau Mamabolo said that they still have an estimated space of 1000 open for applicants. “Since yesterday we had a space of 1000 available for applicants but we cannot maintain the estimation as students continue to register each and every day,” said Mamabolo.
He maintained that their engineering faculty was one of estimated preferred streams and that it could be filled soon. This came as thousands of prospective students camped at Peter Mokaba, with some spending nights sleeping in the open in a bid to secure space.